Moment of Truth #4 – It Wasn’t Really All That Long Ago

When we say that Napoleon Bonaparte came to power in 1804 CE, we tend to imagine it happened a long, long time ago. While technically that is true, it really, really isn’t.

I mean, 1804 is 19th century and that was 200 years ago. Correct.

But it is far more recent compared to 1800 BCE, right?

I mean, History began the minute the Earth was formed; human history began since the time of human evolution. These events in themselves occured millions of years ago. The first humans who lived in caves existed millions of years ago! So, in comparison, don’t you think that Napoleon’s seizure of French power was recent? – just two hundred years ago! And certainly much, much older than the book you read or the TV show you completed less than a week ago!

It wasn’t all that time ago when USA got its independence in 1776.

It wasn’t really all that time ago when the French Revolution took place in 1789.

It wasn’t really all that time ago when Napoleon became the King of France in 1804.

It wasn’t really all that time ago when the soliders in the Indian subcontinent rose against the British colonisers in 1857.

It wasn’t really all that time ago when Europe colonised Africa.

It wasn’t really all that time ago when the Indian National Congress was founded.

It wasn’t really all that time ago when the First World War began.

It wasn’t really all that time ago when the Great Depression took over the world.

It wasn’t really all that time ago when the Second World War began.

It wasn’t really all that time ago when the Cold War began.

It wasn’t really all that time ago when Margaret Thatcher became the first woman Prime Minister of UK.

Universally, an event is considered to be historical when it had happened 30 years ago. Hence, when something happened in 1999 cannot be considered historical, until the end of 2029. When happened in 1991, though, is now historical.

There, History doesn’t seem that far away now, does it? Yes, it impactedm our lives now. The World Wars still have impact to-day – the world in general is still offended by Hitler and his Nazism. The events that are considered History are still showing up in different aspects, such as casteism in India: Even to-day, the Brahmin caste feels superior to the others. It’s all in the past, but yet, we haven’t let these rest; our reasons are our own.


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Moment of Truth #3 – History is a Science

Yes, you read the title of to-day’s article right.

Let me explain.

You are a person of so-and-so age, living with a family who loves you and whom you love. You have been wearing glasses for the past four years. Now, that is rather unusual (though not uncommon), since you’re too young to have eye issues. You had gone to an eye specialist and, after a series of scientific tests, he had prescribed you to wear glasses of certain power. Now, we all know that short-sightedness is hereditary. You see that none of your parents had such premature short-sightedness, so you go further back, to your grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. In short, you’re exploring history.

Now, coming to the point that history is a science. Ever since history began to be written, back in the days of the Greek civilisation, scholars argued about whether it was a science or an art. To-day, it has been classified as both. (Though, I have an arts degree in History!) There is a reason for this.

Do you know what Historiography means? Basically, it means the history of History. Meaning that it is a subject that explores the history of the subject of History. So, in Historiography classes, you learn about the very origins of History, its founding father, its classification, the methodology of research in History, and the various arguments and discussions regarding History that occurred over time. In the methodology of History, there’s something known as ‘scientific method of research‘ – it just means that scholars use scientific methods to enquire into historical events and record them. Not like performing experiments, which is literally impossible for a subject like History, but like asking fundamental questions and trying to discern the myth from the truth. Historians try to record as much of the truth as possible. Of course, that’s subject to the government currently ruling the country; in which case, History becomes tangled with politics, which should be avoided. History should be without emotions and people recording it should not take sides. Often, lack of evidences and/or sources lead historians to record false information.

So, the next time you ask why History should be studied when Science is superior, remember that History also uses a lot of scientific knowledge. This is not only limited to theoretical studies. The practical form of History is called Archaeology. It is, in short, the study of inscriptions and artefacts through which historical narrative is derived. Historians and archaeologists work together to find out the truth. And how do archaeologists find out information from long-dead fossils? By using scientists to build their machines. And these scientists use Science and scientific techniques.

Like the Sociologist Auguste Comte said:

Long story short, never underestimate the power of History. You need history to know science. After all, History and Science are mutually dependent. History explains the origins of everything on this planet.

See you all in my next post!

Moment of Truth #2 – Learning History Will Be Your Salvation!

“The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future.” – Theodore Roosevelt

This is so true and an apt quote for my theme to-day.

Oftentimes, students have the same question: “Why do we have to learn History? What good will it do us to know what happened in the past when we’re living in the present?” As for me, I used to ask, “Why do I have learn Science when I’m not interested in it?”

The answer applies to both the questions: Because it’s a part of our lives. Yes, History and Science both.

Furthermore, History is a part of how we are. You might say, “We need to let go of our past and not hang on to it. So, why are you even bothering with this article?”

And I say, “Because we also need to learn from the mistakes of the past.”

Now, people like Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler might’ve seemed like they didn’t learn much from European history since they went ahead to attempt conquering Russia in climatic conditions they weren’t used to, but they sure did employ historical identities to rally people to their sides – to become their followers. As horrible acts as Hitler had committed during his leadership days, his greatest achievement was making the impossible possible: uniting the people of a country. No government was able to do this as much as the former leader was able to.

And please don’t hate on me for this. I’m a student of History and it’s my responsibility to be neutral. I try to be so as much as possible. Which means, I’m not trying to promote anything, except the love for History. Honestly, this is my only goal in making these Moments of History articles. I say this because I had to block somebody on Twitter who lashed out at me for passing a positive comment about Hitler. *face-palms irritably*

Anyway… coming back to the topic at hand. Learning what happened in the past helps us built a better future. In fact, governments all across the country do this all the time. Researchers do this all the time. Hell, scientists do this all the time. Remember that thing parents always say, “You’ll learn not to touch fire when it burns you”? That’s exactly what happens when you study History. When you’re reading about an event in the past, you’re also gathering the rights and wrongs done by people of that time period during that incident. So that, when you come across something similar, you’ll know what to do and what not to do.

Now, you might say, “Bah, why would I face the same problems as this dude in the 18th century? Times changed now, technology is much more advanced!”

I’d only shrug and say, “History has a tendency to repeat.” And how! I cannot count how many times the same incident happened to me and the different mistakes I committed each time. I’m sure I’m not the only one here; many of you must’ve experienced such a thing. Sometimes, we won’t even realise it.

So, just as how a child’s brain would remember that touching flame would burn them, likewise, the brain remembers all the mistakes committed in the past and will try to find out ways to not make them again.

I hope all this made sense. See you in my next post!

Moment of Truth #1 – You Don’t Have to Memorise Dates in History!

History–it’s a word that probably should receive an award for being the most hated.

Then again, maybe it’s not the only word a majority of people hate. There could be more that I don’t know of.

Anyway, the point of this article is not to see the statistics. It’s about why learning History is important. As a passionate lover of the past, it grieves me to see so many people around me who hate History with equal passion. Now, I don’t mean to say that we need to hang on to the past and not let go. No. What I mean is that I want people to be aware of why this particular subject has been enforced upon them for five years in school.

History is actually not such a bad subject. Those of you who dislike it because of dates, then I’m here to tell you that remembering dates is not at all important. As long as you write a date that’s close to the actual one, that’s enough. It doesn’t have to be exact. You know your date of birth, you know when your country gained independence (every citizen has this drilled into their heads), and you know the important dates relating to your country’s past whatever they may be (1857 Revolt in India, passing of the first Universal Adult Franchise, passing of the first constitution). Now, find out a few more lesser important dates, and make a mental timeline in your head. Link all these dates together in a line and you can fit the rest between them. If a treaty was signed on 30 April 1952 and during exam you don’t remember this date, at least ensure you remember the year; month is secondary. In reality, it takes a long time for people to come together and write down a treaty – and even longer for them all to sign it. The same goes to revolutions – the French Revolution didn’t happen in a single day, rather for a duration of at least three years, from 1789 to 1792. Events like the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution haves even more stretch in their time periods – so much that one can’t attach a year or a decade to them. They all happened over a period of centuries.

So, if you’re a student of History and hate it, and the only reason you have is having to memorise the dates, then I hope this article reassures you against it.

See you all in my next post!